2022 NFL Draft

Titans trade up to select Liberty QB Malik Willis in third round of 2022 NFL Draft

Malik Willis' slide in the 2022 NFL Draft finally stopped in the third round.

The Tennessee Titans selected the Liberty quarterback with the 86th overall pick on Friday night.

The Titans leaped up the board to snag Willis in the third round, shipping the 90th and 169th pick to Las Vegas. The Raiders took Memphis guard Dylan Parham at No. 90.

Earlier in the second round, Tennessee took Auburn cornerback Roger McCreary (No. 35) and Ohio State tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere (No. 69) with Willis still on the board.

Quite possibly the most hotly debated player in the draft, Willis is dripping with physical prowess and enters the NFL as one of the most gifted athletes at the quarterback position. The Liberty product boasts a cannon for an arm and can make NFL throws with ease. In two years as a starter, he completed 5,107 passing yards and 47 touchdowns to 18 interceptions.

Willis also boasts unique running ability. Despite being just 6-feet, the QB has a thick lower half that allows him to run over defenders. He led the FBS in rushing by a quarterback in 2020, with 944 yards and 14 TDs. The 22-year-old's running ability makes him an immediate threat as a rookie, even as he develops other areas of quarterbacking.

The physical gifts aren't in question when it comes to Willis. Most scouts' primary areas of concern are his lack of production against quality opponents, his ability to process defenses -- which he wasn't asked to do much of at Liberty -- and spotty accuracy.

Willis enrolled at Auburn in 2017. After two years as a backup, he transferred to Liberty to get his shot at starting. Despite a mediocre supporting cast, Willis shined against lesser opponents, using his athletic gifts to shred defenses with his arm and legs. But there were questions about his processing in the offense that Liberty runs.

The most physically gifted QB in the 2022 draft class, Willis is a project entering the NFL who could use a year to develop his anticipation, vision and reading defenses. But the dual-threat comes with an astronomical upside if it all coalesces.

Mocked as high as No. 2 overall, Wills' precipitous fall into the middle of the third round came as teams were unsure how long it would take the quarterback to develop into a pro-level passer and processor. Would he need an entire red-shirt season? Two? How high were teams willing to take a player who might not be ready to start for years?

The answer was not very high.

But Willis lands with a Titans team that will provide the quarterback time to develop without being tossed into the fire. The AFC South champs have Ryan Tannehill in place for at least one more season.

A certain sect of Tennessee fans called for the Titans to move on from Tannehill this offseason, believing their upside is capped under the quarterback who struggled in the postseason. Given his contract and production as a top-15 QB, Tannehill wasn't going anywhere in 2022.

But the Titans now added a quarterback with sky-high potential to eventually take over for Tannehill.

Now it's on Willis to prove a lot of people who passed on his talents wrong.

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